Mali’s National Dialogue Conference Recommends Dialogue With Jihadi Leaders

The National Dialogue Conference of Mali which ended April 2nd, 2017 recommends open dialogue as the only way forward for a sustainable and united Mali. The conference advised President of the Republic, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, on the importance of open and sincere dialogue with armed groups including prominent Jihadi leaders like Iyad Ag Aghali and Amadou Kouffa. Participants at the conference also proposed audits on all projects conducted in the North of the country. The BBC reports that, in response to these proposals, President Boubacar Keita told delegates and the diaspora that he has taken note and will proceed in the future to create a “Committee of the Wise” to work on the proposals.

For more than 5 years, the West African state of Mali has been embroiled in conflict. Its conflict is complex and holds ethnic, religious and political connotations. The government and international partners like France and Chad have succeeded in recapturing most of the territories seized by armed forces in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, some of these groups have focused their attacks on major city centers and the public. Mali’s situation has plunged into a downward spiral of violence both in the North, home to the various Jihadi and ethnic related groups, and the South where guerrilla styled attacks frequently occur. Despite the gains made by using force, Malians have realized that, until they sit down for discussion, the way to peace may never be found. In this light, Jihadi leaders who are considered “enemies of the republic” need to be included in the dialogue, This is because, as Mandela said: “you can only make peace with your enemy not with your friend. No peace is negotiated by the barrel of the gun but over a plate of food by enemies.” The Malian case can also be a precedent for many countries in Africa who are facing similar situations. The Anglophone case in Cameroon, the unsolved Ivorian grievances born out of the 2010 elections, the Niger Delta case in Nigeria are some examples among many others. Moreover, using force fosters conflict in many more groups which would complicate the initial grievances.

Mali was reduced to its current situation following a series of attacks waged against it by the Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) which sought to create an independent Azawad state for the Tuareg people. With the government’s inability to manage the situation, mutineer soldiers staged a coup that overthrew President Ahmadou Toumani Touré in April 2012. The new government was led by Captain Ahmadou Sanogo who promised to stop the uprisings. Unfortunately, the ill-equipped and divided Malian army was in no condition to fight. In its initial stages, the MNLA was supported by the Islamist group Ansar Dine and its leader, Iyad Ag Ghali. These two later split when it became clear that the latter was more interested in imposing Sharia Law in the North. Many other groups also become involved, this included the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for the Unity of the Jihad (MUJAO). After Captain Sanogo was forced out of power through a negotiated deal and replaced by National Assembly Speaker, Diouncounda Traoré, foreign forces were called in to help drive out rebel forces that were plaguing the South. Despite the recorded successes, including a Presidential election in 2013 which saw the victory of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali still does not enjoy peace and stability. This situation is what prompted the National Dialogue Committee to emphasize dialogue with Jihadi leaders. The recommendations made by the committee would certainly bring more impetus into Mali’s search for peace.